The Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) formally requested a rescission of the approval of the International Hearing Society (IHS)’s National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for hearing aid specialists. The program was certified by the U.S. Department of Labor in June.
“We have been working with counsel over the past several weeks, really since this was introduced, to investigate the legalities of this program as it relates to current state licensure and educational requirements,” said ADA President Kim Cavitt, AuD.
The Hearing Aid Specialist Certified Apprenticeship is a competency-based program designed to take two years and encompass 4,000 hours of training.
“It's all about bringing more hearing aid specialists, expanding our profession because there are so many people who need to be served,” said IHS President Scott Beall, AuD. “Between audiologists and hearing aid specialists, we just don't have enough.”
However, the ADA contends that the new effort encroaches on an audiologist's scope of practice, Dr. Cavitt said.
“This apprenticeship program talks about cerumen removal, interpreting tests of middle ear function, determining candidacy for cochlear implants, rehabilitative and medical intervention, designing and modifying auditory equipment, providing aural rehabilitation, and providing tinnitus management. That is not the dispensing of hearing aids.”
Larry Eng, AuD, president of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), said the academy had reviewed the press release issued by IHS and commends the society for improving and standardizing education for hearing instrument specialists but also hopes the program isn't an attempt for hearing aid specialists to broaden their scope of practice.
“The scope of practice for audiologists is much greater and requires a foundation in the anatomy and physiology of the hearing and vestibular system, neuroanatomy, acoustics, and psychoacoustics,” Dr. Eng said.
In an interview with The Hearing Journal before ADA's official announcement of the rescission request, Dr. Beall said the apprenticeship program will not change a hearing aid specialist's scope of practice. HJ emailed Dr. Beall after the announcement but did not receive a response.
“We are a subset of the broad range of competencies in audiology,” Dr. Beall said in the original interview. “We're not looking to expand our scope of practice to encroach upon anything audiologists do that only audiologists can do.”
Dr. Cavitt said she was disappointed to hear this viewpoint from the International Hearing Society.
“I do not believe that any of the training programs that have been developed to date are equal to a bachelor's degree and a three- or four-year doctoral program with 1,820 hours of clinical education. It's just not commensurate.
“I firmly support their ability and their right to dispense hearing aids and to test hearing for the sole purpose of dispensing hearing aids. I do not believe they have any rights beyond that.”